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Rail fare hikes slammed by environmental and passenger groups

Environmental and passenger groups have slammed train fare rises that came into effect today as unacceptable, unjustified and damaging to the environment.

The Campaign for Better Transport said the rises would deter passengers, leading to a rise in carbon emissions.

"Rail is the low-carbon way to travel but passengers are being priced off with above-inflation fare increases. At a time of recession, these increases are making life difficult for hard-working families," said executive director Stephen Joseph.

"The Government's policy is to reduce its investment in the railways and make passengers pay more. Instead, it should invest more, regulate fares so they don't rise above inflation and make it easy for people to reduce their carbon footprint."

Campaign for Better Transport recently published research which provides evidence that demand for public transport has been suppressed by high fares. It says that if fares were reduced by 20% to a level more in line with the European average, bus travel would increase by 13% and rail travel by 17% by 2015.

The research shows that reducing bus and rail fares and increasing motoring and aviation taxes could cut carbon emissions from transport by 13% by 2025. The research was carried out by consultant Steer Davies Gleave and published in December 2008.

Cat Hobbs, public transport campaigner at Campaign for Better Transport, said: "Train and bus fares keep rising while the overall cost of motoring and the cost of flying keep falling. People want to use public transport, but the Government has to provide financial incentives for making the right choice. It should start by rethinking its rail fares policy."

Simon Ellis, head of economics at Steer Davies Gleave, said: "Our work shows that reducing public transport fares while increasing the cost of motoring and air travel could reduce carbon emissions substantially. The price of each kind of transport needs to reflect its impact on climate change if the Government is to encourage people to choose lower carbon modes."

Passenger Focus meanwhile criticised train operating companies for masking the true cost of the rise.

"The perpetual tinkering with ticket restrictions ensure back door fare rises continue. Yet again, many long distance passengers will be pushed into paying higher prices or locking themselves into rigid advance purchase, one train only fares," said Passenger Focus chief executive Anthony Smith.

"Many passengers will shudder and shiver when they find out the scale of some New Year fare rises."

Passenger Focus has called on the Government and train companies to agree to help beleaguered passengers by:

• halting any further excessive fare rises, and
• immediately limiting the range within which regulated fares are allowed to rise.

"As an immediate action we call on ministers to open discussions with the train companies to limit the range that regulated fares can go up. Big rises simply cannot be justified in more normal times let alone the current economic climate," Smith concluded.

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